To All the Lies I’ve Been Told,
Between the ages of seven and nineteen you, The Lies I’ve Been Told, were a voice in my head ruining every moment. As soon as something went right in school or my career, you would pop up as a reminder that I am less than, that I don’t deserve to have that perfect moment. Before an interview for my dream internship, you were the voice of the guy I had a crush on in high school. I heard him tell me to choose a different career, one that didn’t involve writing, because he couldn’t understand my essay that he was peer-reviewing. When I was in my college classes, I heard the comments of a friend from high school as she corrected the grammar in the notes we passed each other in class.
But most of the time, I heard myself.
When I would go to write a story, I would pick up my pen and your voice, The Lies I’ve Been Told, would start to speak. You sounded like me, but you aren’t me, “Why would anyone want to read my words when I don’t know how to spell them?” When you first appeared I didn’t need any more discouragement than that. I would put away my notebook and move on to another activity. But I soon learned to fight back – the problem is you figured that out, too.
You would start by replaying the same situation over and over again in my head: showing me the teacher I had at seven years old. I don’t remember her name, but I will never forget her face. A flashback of that moment would echo in my head…a little black book was in my hands, used as a dictionary for words we didn’t know how to spell yet. Normally, the teacher would be happy to put tricky words in our book so that we could remember them for next time. And so, I hesitantly left my table again after a 5-minute debate on how to spell the word “so” with my equally lost friends. I had already been up there 4 times, but no one at my table could figure it out. Maybe it had a silent “e” on the end; maybe it was an “-ew” like in sewing, maybe that was the correct spelling? I went up to the teacher and she looked at me in disbelief – as if I were playing a practical joke.
“So?” she asked “So?” As in “So,” do you think it’s ok to waste my time?”
“Yes miss, I mean no miss,” I said sheepishly.
She handed back my book while rolling her eyes and I went back to my table, feeling defeated once again.
Your voice, The Lies I’ve Been Told, would continue to try and break me down; to combat it, I reminded myself that I was only seven years old. “The teacher didn’t know you were dyslexic; I have a voice now. I am proud of myself now. I graduated from high school; I go to the University of Michigan. I am not stupid!” I would then try to push on, uncapping my pen and opening my notebook to the next clean page. I would place the pen on the page, close my eyes and take a deep breath.
Your voice still wasn’t done, though. A million faces of people I hardly know ran across my eyelids. All screaming a chorus of “I’m sorry, what did you say? I was just listening to your accent.” Your voice chimes in again, whispering with an audible, curled-lip smile and yet it is the loudest voice I hear: “Why write? People only care what you sound like. In fact, go for it. Write what you want, but no one will care unless you are speaking. And even then, they won’t be listening to your words, only your accent.”
I would close my notebook, put away my pens and pretend that I didn’t want to write, I wouldn’t even try. No one knew about my secret love. “No one cares what you have to say, only the way you say it…” a line too cruel to be spoken out loud. No one ever actually said these words to me, not in that order and not in the way, at least. But I still heard it in my head. I heard it clear as day, ringing in my brain like a clocktower until I believed it.
You know that moment when you know something is false, but no matter how hard you try you still believe every word of it? For some, it’s the fact that not all snakes are venomous. You know this is, but no matter how hard you try you cannot bring yourself to enter your friend’s room and see their new pet snake. There’s a pain in your chest while struggling to catch your breath. This is how I felt every time I opened my laptop or picked up a pen, all because of you, The Lies I’ve Been Told.
But then I found people that reminded me that labels are a joyful and painful concept all-wrapped-up into one indescribable bag of memories. They can give us the strength to know we aren’t alone, because if the label exists, then someone else understands how we feel. They can also tear us down, be assigned to us without our permission, be spat at us in a way that breaks us down. I found confidence in being dyslexic by knowing that I wasn’t the only one who reads and views the world differently. But yet these lies you told me, that I was “stupid” and that “I didn’t have anything of interest to say” were embedded in me like an unwanted tattoo. One given to me by the people who supposedly loved me the most. “Friends” whose idea of “compassion” was poking holes in the one thing that made me stand tall.
In college, I found better friends – friends that remind me of the first time I found confidence in my words. They showed me your flaws…in just talking to them, I could see the truth. Because of genuine friends that actually cared about my happiness, I eventually saw through it all. Through you, The Lies I’ve Been Told, more specifically, through the lies I had told myself. Through the backhanded compliments, and the comments I misconstrued. I finally saw the truth behind it all, the truth that was hidden from me for so long. I saw the confidence that you had taken from me, and I chose to take it back. I chose to be me. I chose to follow my dreams, and work at becoming the writer I always knew I was. Behind all those lies, I was hidden from the world. Now, I stand with a voice that doesn’t knock myself or others down but instead is clear, passionate and powerful. And I fight to keep her alive.
I don’t see you as much anymore, but when your voice does pop up again and tries to show me flashbacks of the past – when every inch of me is paralyzed with fear and disbelief that I can have the future of my dreams – I no longer fall for the trap. I control my own outcomes, I control my passions, and I won’t let you or myself get in the way of those anymore.
- For resources on bullying related to diversity, race & religion, please visit: https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/index.html
- For resources on bullying related to disabilities and other learning differences, please visit: https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/special-needs/index.html
Felicity Harfield is a 22-year old University of Michigan Graduate and also a dyslexic writer. At the age of 11, she moved from London, England to Detroit, Michigan. She still has an English accent, and has found when she first meets someone, it’s all they seem to care about. But after years of battling insecurities, anxiety, toxic relationships and periods of depression Felicity knows the truth. She sees who she is without the accent and toxicity she has experience and strives to continuously learn to love herself. This is a three-part series of letters to different elements in Felicity’s life. Felicity has found that writing letters to aspects of her identity that she is insecure about has helped her. She hopes to help other people who have gone through similar periods of confusion in their life. “I am not always comfortable with who I am. I may never fully love myself, but I see how others could love me and sometimes that’s enough.”